Give Up Waiting as a State of Mind

This is part of a longer quote I read from Eckhart Tolle last week. The entire quote was: “Give up waiting as a state of mind. When you catch yourself slipping into waiting, snap out of it. Come into the present moment. Just be and enjoy being.” Quite the thought-provoking quote. I have spent a lot of time waiting. Countless hours, days, weeks, months, years – just waiting. Red lights, grocery store lines, dial-up (old school internet connection), waiting rooms (heck, it even has the waiting built right in); buying the house; for him to graduate; for her to ask; for the promotion; for him to sign; for her to forgive.

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Waiting is painful, exhausting, a waste. To reframe it as Tolle suggests is very interesting. Instead of looking at your watch or calendar, come back to the present moment. Instead of gnashing your teeth, planning a detour, counting up all the wrongs you are suffering, come back to the present. Engage.

Here are some tips giving up waiting:

Value the time

As Elisha Goldstein writes for Mindful, “Most people believe that waiting is a waste of time and it’s best to fill that time with something…anything.What if this is an investment in the present moment? What if this is a time to be with yourself? Instead of striving to move on, past the traffic jam, or off the detour, you could embrace the extra moment with yourself. Instead of taking out time from your personal time bank account, you are making a time deposit. So, if the doctor is delayed, or the cashier has a price check, you suddenly have more time for you! It’s a windfall! Value the time you have gained for yourself.

Don’t default to distraction

Look around at the DMV, doctor’s office or line for the movie theater (I know…old school): everyone is on their phones. There MUST be something out there on the web, social media or my inbox that’s more interesting than this present moment. I’m guilty of this at a red light. I pick up my phone without a thought to see if I have anything in my inbox or some interaction on social media. One more “like” or comment or useless promotional email. It makes time slip away by just skimming without any value. 99.9% of the time. Looking at your phone is absolutely valueless and it excites your brain to expect the email saying you finally hit the Mega Millions lottery. That email won’t come and expectancy of some kind of windfall depletes you. Stay off your phone and from the pull of distraction.

Find the opportunity

As Goldstein writes, “In those moments, instead of grabbing something to fill the space, you recognized it as an opportunity to be okay with just waiting.” I think this is about reframing it as a positive. An opportunity. Found money in your jeans pocket while doing the wash. Savor it. Relax into it. Again, Goldstein prescribes: “You can soften the muscles in your body that have just tensed due to a mini fight/flight/freeze response and just recognize you’re safe.” I’ve caught myself over the last week when I hit that one red light that seems so much longer than the rest. Take a deep breath and slide into the moment of right now. Everything is OK. As Goldstein says, “You’re safe.” In reality, 99.9% of the time, you are safe. Find the opportunity to be aware that you are just fine.

Practice, practice, practice

So the best part about giving up waiting and snapping back into the present is that there are endless ways to practice. As Goldstein wrote:

There are so many opportunities to practice.

  • You can do this while waiting for the bread to toast,
  • waiting for someone to get out of the shower,
  • waiting for a certain report at work,
  • waiting for a screen to load,
  • waiting for your partner to clean the dishes,
  • waiting on hold on the phone, or
  • even while waiting for your newborn to settle down as you’re doing your best as a parent to soothe your baby.

There is a treasure trove of opportunity to practice! I have noticed that, since reading Tolle’s quote, I have practiced this over the last week and just noticing my reaction to waiting has been a good start. The moment I say, “Ugh, I can’t believe there is a line of six cars,” I reframe it. I can catch myself and come back into the present moment. It’s just a practice of self-control.

It’s difficult to control our brain’s negative bias towards catastrophe. I found that awareness alone has helped release the tension of those anxious moments when I feel I am needlessly waiting. The first thing is to notice that you are doing it. How can you reframe waiting?

Putting Gratitude into Practice

Most people have some point of feeling grateful; like when the rain finally stops; when they get the overdue raise; when the dog is finally house broken. Sometimes it’s like pounding our head into the wall and when it finally stops, we feel grateful. We can wait for the pain to stop to finally reap our reward. Finally, the house is done; the project went live; the promotion is announced. These can be once-in-a-lifetime, periodic, or once-a-year events. Being grateful for these events is important but it’s not a practice of gratitude.

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A practice of gratitude is finding the joys of life; the little things along with the big things. My dog lying on her back on the couch without a care in the world as Hurricane Florence rages outside. The first sip of coffee at 5:10 AM. The warm embrace. The smile. The knowing glance. The warm melody of the cello playing Bach. There are thousands of things each day that pass by either noticed or not. Gratitude is the butterfly net to catch them.

Here is how to put gratitude into practice:

Reframe the event or issue

I first learned this during my Results Based Coaching with the Neuroleadership Group some seven years ago. Reframing is changing the context in which you view something. Typically, it’s turning something less desirable into something desirable. Changing the glass from being half empty into half full or half empty to thank goodness we have water. Having survived Hurricane Florence this past month has really done a reframe around power, water, air conditioning and abundant grocery stores. It goes from: “I can’t believe Walmart is closed!” to “Thank goodness Food Lion is open and they have fresh produce.” “The bridge is impassable,” to “At least I have power and can work from home.” So, when you run out of gas and have to walk to the gas station, view it as at least I got some exercise today. Reframe the negative into a positive.

Find the opportunity

Figure out what is available. When Hurricane Florence was bearing down on Wilmington, NC, I was home taking advantage of power and hot water. I think I took at least two showers a day and  kept starting up the dishwasher and washing machine. I was thinking, “Well, who knows how long we will have power. Let me do another load.” My boyfriend Roy has never seen a multi-story building he didn’t like. We checked into a hotel that had nine floors. Roy immediately decided that we were going take those stairs twice. “Here is a great opportunity!” So there I was, hiking up and down nine flights of stairs. Why waste a good opportunity for exercise? Park in the farthest spot, walk in the rain, put on a loaded backpack while you mow the lawn. Find the opportunity.

Just two beats longer

I found this in Brendon Burchard’s book, The Motivational Manifesto. As Burchard writes: Let us forget for now where we are supposed to be and what we should be doing. Instead, let us hold this moment for just two beats longer.

Do not breathe so quickly. Take in air for two beats longer.

Do not scan the room. Sense the room by gazing into each shadow and corner for two beats longer.

Do not merely glance at her. Look into her eyes and hold them for two beats longer.

Do not gulp down the next meal but savor each bite for two beats longer, let the tastes melt and linger.

Do not send the heartless note. Read it once more and spend two beats longer sensing the pain it may cause another.

Do not give a perfunctory kiss good-bye while juggling everything on the way out the door. Make the kiss count, make it firm and solid and true, holding the moment passionately for two beats longer.

Life is lived in the extra beats we hold as time unfolds.

In my opinion, those two beats hold gratitude. Savor the moment.

Journaling or whatever

Figure out a way to catalogue your gratitude. I personally have been keeping a gratitude journal for over five years. People approach this task differently – you can figure out what works for you. I kept a gratitude jar on my desk three years ago and wrote each moment of gratitude on a slip of paper, stored it in a jar until year end, and read each one on New Year’s Day. There is the practice of carrying a gratitude rock in your pocket and then touching it whenever you are grateful. You can create a gratitude tree and hang a “leaf” with each thing you are grateful for. You can write a gratitude letter once a day or week or month to thank someone you are grateful for. What’s important is that you pick something you can practice on a regular basis. I currently write five things I am grateful for in the morning and one item I am grateful for in myself (like being able to climb those 9 flights of stairs – TWICE!).

Compliment others

Nothing feels better than paying a sincere compliment. It’s completely free and feels absolutely fantastic. So, whether it’s your co-worker showing up with a new hairstyle or your assistant having completed the report in a timely manner, find something to compliment. People love to be noticed. This can be with someone you know or not. If you like the earrings of the cashier at Whole Foods, tell them you like them. It’s an easy way to pay gratitude forward. If someone pays you a compliment, be sure to say “thank you.” No qualifiers to discount the compliment like: “This old thing? I have had it for years.” Or “I really don’t like the color.” Give and accept compliments gracefully.

The underlying theme of all of this is being present and paying attention. Once it is part of you, it becomes easier and things to be grateful for multiply. Try it yourself.  What are you grateful for?

4 Ways to Unplug Negative Thoughts

You stand on the scale and you’ve gained 5 pounds. You think, “Fatso, why did you have that extra chocolate chip cookie?” You avoid setting up the meeting with your boss because you are sure your idea will be shot down. “She doesn’t think I’m smart. She’ll never like my ideas.” You gossip about your co-worker because you know they will never get the promotion they want. “He’s an idiot. There’s no way he’ll get it.” All these thoughts are wearing a super highway of negativity in your brain. The good news is you can change that.

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Your brain is malleable and can be changed–and it doesn’t even involve surgery. The key to disempowering your negative or unwholesome thoughts is to change your pattern of thinking. It takes practice. But when you start creating wholesome thoughts, they beget more wholesome thoughts. Soon, you are a wholesome thought-machine. As Professor Mark Muesse taught in the Great Courses: Practicing Mindfulness, “Unwholesome thoughts break down into three areas: selfish desire (I want my neighbor’s car), hatred (I hate that person because they are different from me) and deluded thoughts (I think I’m the greatest or completely unworthy).”

 

Here are Professor Muesse’s four “R’s” of disempowering thoughts:

 

  1. Simply replace the negative or unwholesome thought with something opposite.  If someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of angrily swearing and tailing them, you should instead think, “I’m sure they are in a rush for a good reason.” I’ve done this when my boss’ door was shut. I would switch my paranoid thinking: “She’s going to fire me” to “She must be working on my raise or a new challenging project.” When I had a four-hour unplanned airport layover a few weeks ago, I replaced my “I hate this airport and this lousy airline” thought (which became my new negative mantra for a few minutes) to “This’ll be a great opportunity to listen to my book and get in 10,000 steps.” I also cultivate compassion by saying, “Just like me.” If someone steals my parking space, I say, “They want to be happy, just like me.” Replace the unwholesome negative thoughts with positive, wholesome ones.

 

  1. Reflecting on results.  Think about the long-term results of this thinking. Contemplate the forward trajectory or consequences of these thoughts. If I believe that I am a nervous speaker, I will become a nervous speaker. If I think that I am financially insecure, I will become financially insecure. Seeing the long-term consequences helps squelch the inner critic. Another way of looking at it is: do you want to be the Grinch? Even Grinch-like folks were small children at some point. It took years of unwholesome, greed-filled thoughts to result in the vengeful person they became. What are you really creating with all those unwholesome thoughts? Your best you?

 

  1. Redirecting attention.  This is where you direct your attention away towards something more wholesome. Like your breath, your toes or your ear lobes. I advise my clients to do this when they get angry and have regressed into their lizard brain (the fight-or-flight part of your brain). When you are hijacked by emotions, it’s important to get out of your head and back into your body. Especially before you say something you might regret. Your best thinking is in your prefrontal cortex but it’s impossible to get there as long as you are in a state of fear or anger. Remember the phrase This too shall pass. Good or bad, everything is impermanent. We just need to accept that it is impermanent. Joy or terror, thoughts pass away, lose power and fade. Bring it all back to the breath.

 

  1. This is all about challenging your assumptions.  It might be that you’ve become jealous of your co-worker’s new convertible sports car. You assume that if you had that car, you would be happy. Examine what you might feel you’re lacking. Maybe you want some freedom. Maybe independence. Look at the underlying assumptions of why you might be envious. You might be envious of your boss’ new smart phone. You want to have the latest technology. But won’t that phone be an out-of-date piece of junk in three years? I recently moved my home office. I thought about a nice chair I wanted for it. I realized that I didn’t want to add any more furniture to my already fully-furnished house. I realized there was a chair and ottoman that was unused in another room. So instead of feeling like I was lacking, I discovered I already had what I needed. Challenge your assumptions.

 

Any type of mindfulness is a practice that takes time and consistency. Habitual thoughts are not easy to break but it can be done with persistence. I personally journal each evening about how I have reframed my thoughts throughout the day. I think the reflection helps me hardwire the new positive, wholesome thoughts. Good luck!

Letting Go and Moving On

You are still mad that you didn’t get that plum promotion. You are still ruminating on the time you totally blew Thanksgiving dinner some 15…er 20 years ago. You still can’t believe that that guy from Sophomore year never called you back. You’ll never forgive your parents for not being perfect. Turns out that all this ruminating and dredging up all the past sins of you and others is a recipe for long term unhappiness. It’s time to let go and move on.

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It’s crazy how much time that most of us spend on rehashing the sins and failures of the past again and again and again. Or “should-ing” all over ourselves. The “what ifs” take over and suddenly we are on a new trajectory that is completely false and, in fact, painful. There are some steps you can take to get past the past. The rehash. The regurgitation. Want some freedom? Here are a few ideas:

 

  • Reframe.  As Mark Chernoff writes, “Oftentimes letting go is simply changing the labels you place on a situation – it’s looking at the same situation with fresh eyes and an open mind.”  So, change the frame around the situation.  Didn’t get the promotion? This is a great opportunity to learn something new and completely different.  You could be kicking butt as a yoga instructor. What an opportunity.  That dry turkey from so many years ago?  It’s a success because absolutely no one remembers it but you.  They all remember what a great time they had and how you produced the WHOLE dinner on your own.  You are the Thanksgiving Hero!  Your imperfect parents?  Yeah but didn’t they get you safely to adulthood.  Are you a bit thicker skinned because of the bumps along the way?  Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me resilience.  Reframe your trials and tribulations.

 

  • Effort.   This was my insight from this past week’s mediation. Did you give “it” your best effort? Especially at the end of what you thought was a lifetime relationship.  Did you give it your best? Were you your best self? If so, let it go. If you didn’t give your best effort then maybe you should revisit and show up with your best. When you have given it your very best, then it’s time to let go. Giving only a little effort and letting go just means it was never that important to you. If you are constantly doing this, you may just be skimming through life. Give your best effort and then, walk away with your head held high. You gave it your best. Move on.

 

  • Emotions.  You cannot go around, you must go through. I believed that I could cry a few times and then tip toe around the grief. Nope. You need to feel it. Accept it. Live it.  Fully sense the constraint in the pit of your stomach, the heat on your forehead and the tightening of your throat. Then label it. “Oh…so this is grief.” Definitely find a time and private place to do this (so staff meeting isn’t a good time for this). Skipping this step only ensures that it will come back again and again. Experiencing it eventually makes it clear enough so that you can move on.  For me the barometer was when I told the story of loss to someone new, I didn’t get choked up anymore.  Be sure to live through the emotions.

 

  • Care.  Take care of yourself. What does self-care look like for you? Is it a new dress? A facial? Going for a ten-mile hike? Fishing along a stream? Making a seven-course meal for yourself? Seeing the latest feature film? Karaoke? Roller skating? Sky diving? Scuba diving? Sitting on the beach with a great book? Taking that new yoga class? One of the main things about letting go and moving on is making yourself a priority. Since suffering my loss, I’ve been driving once a week for 70 miles for a group meditation practice. It recharges me and resets my brain. Take care of yourself.

 

  • Gratitude.  My home was flooded during Hurricane Matthew some nine plus months ago. I had a list of over ten thousand things that needed to get done to finish the house. I don’t focus on that list. It’s debilitating to focus on all that is wrong. Instead I write in my gratitude journal every day about what is going right! It’s much more uplifting. This past weekend, my attic was finally empty of all its contents. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. What a weight was lifted. I am so grateful. Being grateful rewires your brain to the positive. Show your gratitude.

 

  • Truth.   In one of my recent readings I read the Total Truth Process by Jack Canfield. The premise is to write a letter to someone who has hurt or injured you at any point in your life. It could be anything from your parents to middle school to the nun who smacked your hand in catechism class. I have a list of folks and I am working my way through the list (don’t worry, I’m sure you aren’t on my list).  Anyway, write a letter answering Canfield’s questions:
  1. Anger and resentment. I’m angry that … I hate that … I’m fed up with … I resent …
  2. Hurt. It hurt me when … I felt sad when … I feel hurt that … I feel disappointed…
  3. Fear. I was afraid that … I feel scared when … I get afraid that I…
  4. Remorse, regret, and accountability. I’m sorry that … Please forgive me for …
  5. Wants. All I ever want(ed) … I want you to … I want(ed) … I deserve …
  6. Love, compassion, forgiveness, and appreciation. I understand that … I appreciate … I  love you for … I forgive you for … Thank you for …

I haven’t given the letters or talked about them with the person I have addressed         them to but it is quite cathartic to get it on paper and out of my head.  Sometimes bullet #3 showed up.  Sometimes not.  But I highly recommend writing the truth down.

This is all a process and cannot be sped up (although I wish it could be).  Having a coach can be helpful as well.  My coach pointed out some great resources on transitions.  Having a third unrelated party to provide insight and thoughtful questions can be invaluable. What do you need to let go of?

Transforming the Negativity Bias

This starts in grade school. Two kids are whispering and you assume it’s about you. Your boss hasn’t responded to your email in a week and you think she’s getting ready to demote you. Your child is late getting home and you assume they have been in a car accident. It’s all hardwired into your brain. Your ancestors didn’t wait around to find out if the rustle in the bushes was a saber tooth tiger. They ran. If they didn’t run, you wouldn’t be here.

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The problem is that this constant focus on the negative in today’s day and age, is bad for your body and brain. If something good and something bad happen in the same day, you end up focusing on the bad. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt says, “Over and over, the mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly and persistently than to equivalent good things.” As Tony Robbins wrote for the New York Times, “It turns out that cultivating positive emotions such as joy, contentment, interest, pride and love pays huge dividends.” The good news is that you can rewire your brain towards the positive.

Here is how to transform your negativity bias:

  • Gratitude.  Taking stock of what is going right. It could be as simple as a roof over your head, being grateful for your child graduating college, or having your boss actively listen to you. I personally have been writing in a gratitude journal for over five years. I used to do it in the evening and then switched to the morning. I used to write five individual things like “Daddy”, “Baci”, “Dinner”, “Natalie” and “Ben”. Now I write three things and say, “I am grateful for Janine’s support. I am grateful for Joe’s attentive listening. I am grateful for a great dinner at SoCo.” It’s more specific and writing the word “grateful” has a bigger impact. Be grateful.

 

  • Store.  Look back right now at something that has happened positive today. I just had delicious bacon and eggs with my daughter. She really enjoyed the bacon. Now I need to stop, dwell and think about that positive experience, while I take a few breaths in order to store the positive experience in my head. This is an idea posited by Rick Hanson in a TedTalk. When you relive a positive experience in your mind for even a few seconds, it rewires your brain towards the positive. Be sure to be storing the positive experiences.

 

  • Score.  I struggle with this one. I even have Positivity as one of my top 5 from StrengthsFinders. According to John Gottman, there needs to be at least a 3 to 1 ratio and, ideally, a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative feedback you give the people in your life. So try and keep score. Are you telling your kids everything they did wrong and how bad their grades are or looking at what went right? Like, “Hey, thanks for getting up on time” or “Thanks for putting your books away.” We all want praise. It makes us feel better and with us all being hardwired for negativity, remembering that the one criticism you give will likely live on and all the positivity will float away. Keep score of your sincere positive feedback.

 

  • Visualize.  As Marelisa Fabrega wrote for Daring to Live Fully, “Whenever something negative happens to you—for example, someone says something mean to you—visualize a drop of black ink falling into a large container of clear water. Although at first the ink is very black, it quickly mixes with the rest of the water until it’s gone, and all you can see is the clear water again.” I really like the image of the negativity diluting into clear sparkling water.

 

  • Reframe.  Coaching is all about reframing. Coaching is so beneficial because the coach isn’t connected to the outcome. They bring a different perspective and put a different frame around it. My daughter and I just attended a lovely 6-course dinner. One of the courses was not very good. All of the rest were stunning. I started getting wrapped up in the one bad course and started to regret the entire evening. Luckily, my daughter was able to reframe it for me. “Hey, so one course wasn’t so great, but the rest was terrific and it was a magical evening.” It was. A perfect sunset. Lovely wine. Delicious food. Great conversation. Reframe towards the positive.

 

  • Realistic optimism. As Tony Schwarz wrote for the New York Times, “The notion is not to become an uncritical Pollyanna – but instead to practice “realistic optimism.” That means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story possible about any given situation without denying or minimizing the facts.” Thus, you aren’t in denial but you can create a story that has a more positive outcome.

 

Either way you flow through your day, your positivity or negativity are contagious. Try and spread the positive stuff and ignite others.

Coping with Change

You just lost your job and you are reeling with a thousand questions. You just lost your best friend to cancer and you don’t know how you are going to go on. You are told you are getting a new boss and the word is they are a jerk. These are all massive changes. Life altering. It’s frequently unforeseen. It comes out of nowhere like a sudden car crash. Suddenly you are on a different path.

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There are lots of ways to deal with sudden change. A lot of them are unhealthy. Stuffing your feelings with food. Escaping with alcohol or drugs. Going on a shopping spree. There are healthy ways to cope with change and here are a few ideas.

 

  • Accept and label your emotions.  I lost a pregnancy about 25 years ago. I never dealt with the grief until about a year ago. I was talking to an outstanding coach friend, Sandy Lewis, about pregnancy and the topic came up. She asked if I had grieved for the baby. I hadn’t. So, for several weeks, I lit a candle and named the lost baby “Angel”. I cried. I wept. I wailed. I felt it in my stomach mostly and I labeled it. This is what loss feels like. This is what disappointment feels like. I felt it through my whole body and accepted it. Most of us usually stuff our feelings and never get them out. But they sit there waiting to be experienced. After a weekly ceremony of honoring my feelings and grieving for that lost child, I finally got past it.

 

  • What is the gift?  There is a silver lining to practically anything. The pregnancy I was talking about was an accident. But the gift was that I realized I wanted to have children. When I divorced my first husband and father of my children, I realized that I was worthy and deserving of love. And I found that love. When I was laid off from my first “professional” job, I learned that corporate cafeterias were not where my joy was. I laid off a guy last year and he realized it was time to move and retire. He hated his job. If your relationship ends, you may be thrown onto a path of adventure that you’ve only ever dreamed of. If your current job ends, you may meet a whole new group of people that you thoroughly identify with and who actually become your friends. The important thing is to find the gift and accept it.

 

  • Don’t fight it.  As Amanda Abella wrote in Lifehack, “Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.” Resistance is completely natural but be conscious when it’s time to move on. The resistance is making you suffer. As a client of mine once said, “Sit back like you are in a recliner and let the current flow. Putting your feet down in the white water is dangerous. Kick back and go with the flow.”

 

  • Find healthy habits.  I remember that when I left my first husband, I started smoking again; it was a way for me to take my independence back. It took me five years to quit again. There are lots of healthy options like meditation, yoga, journaling or taking the dog for a walk. It’s easy to get caught up in not being present. You can go over and over and over the sins of the past and get caught up in how you are going to pay the rent without a job. When you feel that start to take over, go for walk and listen to the birds. Get present.

 

  • Reframe it.  I reframe things for my coaching clients all the time. I remember a client was suffering from a mean ex-husband. I asked her what was good about the situation. She replied, “I learned I can take care of myself.” It was easy to get caught up in being the victim and not being able to find your power. If you don’t have a coach, phone a trusted friend. Let them help you reframe it. It frequently takes an outside perspective. It’s difficult to do the work by ourselves. Phone a friend.

 

Change is difficult and we are all wired to resist it. Acknowledging and accepting is the way forward. What change are you coping with?

Every perfectionist should focus on these 7 things.

I see so many of my clients get wrapped up with perfection. I have been guilty of constantly striving for perfection myself. I have measured my ability to be happy based on whether or not: I’m the perfect weight, I have the perfect job or I own the perfect house. I’ll warn you right now, you will never, ever, get to THERE. You never arrive at perfection so quit putting off your happiness until you get THERE. THERE is mythical. No one ever gets THERE.

I won’t deny that there are peaks along the way; those moments we refer to as the milestones of life – falling in love, getting married, job promotions, graduations and births. But invariably we slide right back to our happiness set point within 6 months. Generally, hedonic adaptation involves a happiness “set point”, whereby humans generally maintain a constant level of happiness throughout their lives, despite events that occur in their environment. So whether it’s hitting the lottery or having a spinal cord injury, your level of happiness resets to the same pre-event level.

The key is to change your set point, boost it; change the landscape. I’ve been working on this for the last year or so. It’s like setting your thermostat up one degree at a time. It’s a slow process but I think it is actually working.imperfect

Seeing this photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa prompted this post. It took over 344 years to build the tower and it was already leaning when they put on the second story. So, even though it was less than perfect, they kept at it. It is a nice metaphor. Embrace the lean and keep going. Keep building; one stone at a time.

So if you are a perfectionist (and most of us are) here are the 7 things to embrace the lean:

1. Accept. Obviously, the town and builders of Pisa accepted the lean. In fact, they have said they would rather see the tower topple than fix the lean. There is peace in acceptance. Where are you leaning right now? I’m not at my ideal weight. I’m still paying for student loans from my Master’s degree and, apparently, I’m not getting any younger. This is all true but getting on the scale in the morning cannot be the barometer of how I will feel all day. A pound up or a pound down. Hmmm. Interesting. One more data point. It’s still going to be a great day. Accept what is.

2. Gratitude. I’ve been writing a gratitude journal for over three years. Every evening I write in it before I go to sleep. Usually it’s anywhere from four to ten names of people (or my dog) that I am grateful for. I’m not sure why I focus on people who had an impact on me during the day, it may have to do with how involved I have been with people in my career. You can write anything you want whether it’s the blue sky, the much needed rain or the roof over your head. Counting your blessings helps you focus on what is right with your world. This has had a huge impact on me. It keeps my glass half full. Focus on what you are grateful for.

3. Beauty. Beauty is everywhere. In the middle of winter it’s easy to see the outside world as cold and barren; leafless trees and arctic winds can seem ugly. But it’s all in how you look at it. A bracing wind makes me feel every part of my body. Barren trees make the squirrels, deer and birds much more apparent and reliant on us. There is the beauty of being snuggled up in bed when the wind is howling outside whether it’s with a good book, on the phone with a good friend or sleep. There is a beauty of slowing down to some degree with the seasons. And there is the truth that the beauty of the tower is the lean. Seek out the lean and the hidden beauty.

4. Reflection. Reflect on what you have accomplished. Most of the reason that coaching is so effective is that you have an outside person ask you to take stock in what you have done. We spend so much of our time thinking about what we haven’t done. Instead we need to think about all that we have done. I walked today, I made dinner, I worked, I wrote, I spent time with my dog, I finally sent that overdue email, I did laundry and so on. I have clients who put off our appointment because they feel like they didn’t get any action items done. When we end up meeting, even if they are resistant, they find out that they’ve done more than half their action items. They were just focusing on what they hadn’t done. Take time to reflect on what you have done and give yourself credit.

5. Reframe. Context is everything. Our perception of what we are achieving is completely in our own heads. We are the bellwether, not anyone else. Or we can be at the hands of “What will the public think or judge?” So, if you live in an expensive neighborhood, your Hyundai will never be good enough yet if you drive through a less expensive neighborhood, it might be the most coveted car on the block. I love a cartoon that was going around on Facebook that said “I wish I was as fat as when I thought I was fat”. Reframe and be OK with right now.

6. Optimalist. As written in an article by James Woodworth, ” Optimalists accept that life can be tough and painful at times. Their realism enables them to build resilience and the ability to cope with the difficulties life presents them.” This is the opposite of a perfectionist. Perfectionists are constantly disappointed by falling short as well as by every failure. They dwell on every shortcoming and they never push the envelope. Optimalists don’t fear what they might lose. They believe in the gain. The folks in Pisa didn’t worry about the tower tumbling down. Push the envelope and be an Optimalist.

7. Moment. Be in the moment. Be present. Perfectionists are constantly thinking about “what if” and are overly busy protecting their image and the “what ifs”. When you are doing this, you are missing what is in front of you. Enjoy what you’re looking at – how the sun hit that tree at just the right angle, or the taste of the coffee or the feel of the sheets. It’s your life; be there for it. Be here. Right now. Feel the chair. Feel your breath. Listen to the buzz of the room. This moment; right now.

Much like the folks of Pisa, this all takes patience. Nothing is accomplished overnight. Congratulate yourself with each small step. If you take a step back, so what, brush it off and know that you are on the right path. An imperfect path.

Keep your hands off my stuff

Hands-Off-Mat-MT-2673Seth Godin wrote a recent post called “Possession Aggression.”  It’s a short post but basically he says that it’s hard to give something substantial away but it’s even harder to take something away from someone else.  The person, department or organization starts building their world around their stuff and it gets incorporated into how they view the world.  I actually think that this is where silos start getting erected.  Accounting handles those reports, lay off! Human Resources sets up the company picnic, hands off! Thanksgiving is always at Mom’s house, back off!

Why does it become a personal affront when we try to change?  Even if the organization, the department or the extended family would be much better off with a change in who handled the stuff.  After all, it is just dinner.  A report.  A picnic.  Suddenly paranoia sets in.  Didn’t they like the way “we” handled it.  Maybe we didn’t serve enough gravy.  They didn’t like the way the report looked.  The picnic was boring.  Turn off your dictator and get off the paranoia train;  easier said than done.  We all just want to keep our stuff and for everyone else to keep their paws off.

So here are some steps to letting go of our stuff:

1. Detach. Take a step back. Take a few slow deep breaths. And detach.  Get some perspective on the situation. Sometimes our emotions go on overload and we can’t seem to get off the paranoia train.  Get off at the next station.   Give yourself some space and silence.  When someone has just absconded with your favorite project, decided they would take over the retirement party or delegated making the apple pies to your cousin (even though everyone knows your apple pies are the best);  it’s important to take a step back and detach.

2. Reframe. Once your heart rate has returned to normal and you can gain a little clarity, reframe the issue.  Stand in their shoes.  Especially the cousin who may have never made pies before.  Did he ask to make the pies? Is this a stretch goal for him? Did he just finish a baking school course and wants to test out his skills?  We can get caught up in being the victim and lose our perspective. Put on a different pair of glasses and reframe.

3. Awfulizing. I just learned this word from Michael Segovia who is a tremendous Myers-Briggs facilitator for CPP.  I can fall victim to awfulizing.  I can turn my stubbed toe into an amputation in the blink of an eye. So if my boss’ door is closed all morning, I’ve gone to the mail room to get a box for all my personal effects because I must be getting fired today.  Try to stay focused on the facts.  My boss’ door is closed.  Stop. There are millions of doors that are closed. Chill. Out.

4. Check in.  Check in with whomever you believe to be the absconder of your stuff.  Find out their perspective.  “Hey Suzie, I just found out you’re responsible for Joe’s retirement party. Let me know if you need any help.” You might find out she didn’t even know. You might find out she’s terrified.  You might find out she’s excited by the challenge and would love your input.  You won’t know unless you check in.

5. Clutter check.  Most of our plates have been too full since…well…graduation.   We all hold on tightly to our stuff.  It’s time to check the clutter in our life.  So many of us feel that our value is measured by the amount of balls we can juggle in the air at once.  If we are in a circus, that is true.  In life, we are not.  Take an inventory of what is important and on track with your values.  Let the rest go.  Dump the stuff that is cluttering your mind and life.  And, most importantly, don’t take on new stuff that doesn’t align with your values.  So if there is a new project that someone “volentold” you for, that isn’t an absolute yes…it’s a no.  Stay away from new stuff that isn’t your passion. And you won’t be inadvertently taking someone else’s stuff.

6.  Examine fear. When you do the clutter check there is likely to be fear that bubbles up…rather grips you.  If you let go, how will they do it without me. Everyone is so dependent on you, that they can’t possibly do it on their own.   I can remember leaving one HR job for another some 15 years ago. I felt sure the place would fall apart without me. Employees wouldn’t get paid. Benefits would fall through the cracks. I would let people down. They were fine.  We all survived. The bad news is that we are dispensable. The good news is that we are dispensable. Let go of the fear.

Possession is 9/10th’s of the law. Perhaps this why we guard our stuff with such fervor.  It’s amazing how it can weigh us all down; whether literally with physical possessions or figuratively with obligations on our time.  It might be time to cull out the stuff that is holding you back.